|Emergency in the Philippines: The priority now, is to prevent the spread of disease|
Calabanga, Philippines – Slowly, the people of the Philippines are beginning to rebuild and the true scope of the disaster is making itself apparent. As the organization and effectiveness of various relief efforts increases, the most pressing priority is to prevent the spread of disease.
The area affected by typhoon Haiyan is immense. However, Tacloban, Guiuan, and Basay Paol Leyte bore the brunt of the storm’s force and face the most dramatic road to recovery. Coron, in the Palawan region, and the island of Bantanyan, in Cebu were also devastated, though to a lesser degree.
Some parts of the country were completely destroyed by the typhoon. On the island of Bantayan, where buildings once stood, only columns remain. The rest, along with many human lives, was stolen away by the fierce winds of the typhoon.
During the first weeks following the disaster, as the entire country slowly began to comprehend the magnitude of the devastation, many were simply in shock, incapable of finding an adequate response in front of such an apocalyptic scene. Now, relief services and organizations are far more organized and capable of facing the situation head on.
Food and water are being distributed with greater coordination and the roads to the airports have been cleared. In a few places, like Talcoban, some of the local stores and city centers are finally coming back to life. Though the lights aren’t back on everywhere, and communication services are still unreliable, people are now able to connect to the internet and use the phone in most parts of the country even if only for minutes at a time.
However, even with these improvements, the mass exodus to Manila and other large cities that began in anticipation of the typhoon, continue without interruption. Many would rather run from the tragedy, escape it in some way, and begin again somewhere new without having to confront the monumental effort it will take to rebuild.
For those working on the ground and attempting to bring stability back to the country, helping people return to their everyday routine is of paramount importance. In practice this means getting children enrolled in school and making sure that families have what they need to regain some degree of normality in their daily living. Here, the family is the bedrock of society and, as with any country that has been brought to its knees, it is the one place where the strength can be found to stand up again.
Access to health and sanitary services remains a pressing concern given how quickly disease can spread in the refugee camps and temporary dormitories that popped up throughout the country in the wake of Haiyan. The most vulnerable in the camps, particularly the elderly and children, are the most susceptible to falling ill. As a result, people’s focus is now shifting toward reconstruction and moving people from the camps and into new homes as quickly as possible.
Hope and Courage Remain
“Someone recently spoke of Typhoon Haiyan as a ruthless force of social equalization,” said Sister Margherita della Benetta, working in close collaboration with AVSI in Calabanga. “In front nature, the rich and poor are treated exactly the same. And perhaps this has been one of the main contributing forces to the sense of national solidarity that is being felt throughout the entire island. The way in which people are sharing their lives has surpassed every expectation and has served to increase our courage and hope.”
Thanks to the donations brought in by AVSI and the hard work of Sister Margherita and the Dominican Sisters of Blessed Imelda at their school in Calabanga, more than 800 students and their families have received new clothes, canned goods including corn, meat and sardines, and boxes of rice, pasta and soap.
You can also donate by check to AVSI-USA, 529 14th St. NW, Suite 994, Washington DC 20045, specifying “Philippines” as reason for donation.